How to get the most out of Philly Tech Week (and almost any other event)

Philly Tech Week is almost here. 

Around this time of year, one of the most common questions I get is: 

“Which Tech Week events should I really go to?”

The simple answer would be, “it depends on what you’re interested in.” But even that answer kinda sucks. There are hundreds of events in less than 10 days, which makes it impossible to go to everything you might be interested in, even if you have nothing else to do. 

So my #1 advice is to get outside of your bubble. 

Your interests?
Throw ‘em out the window during tech week.

If you’re going to take advantage of the most densely populated calendar of tech events you can get during the year, go to something you’d never go to. Pick a topic you know nothing about, and go learn something new. 

But more importantly meet people you’d never otherwise meet. 

You know how they say Philadelphia is a “city of neighborhoods”? Well thing about having awesome neighborhoods is that people tend to not leave their neighborhoods. They don’t have to…their neighborhood has everything they could want.

Except it doesn’t. Philadelphia is the 5th largest city in the country and it’s full of people that you’ve never met before. 

You don’t know who they are. 
You don’t know what they care about.
Y
ou don’t know what they know, you don’t know how they can inspire you and help you. 

Philly Tech Week is the same way. There isn’t one tech community in Philadelphia, there are dozens, if not more. But I’m willing to bet that you never leave your little “neighborhood”. 

I’m guilty of this too. We all are. I realized recently that Indy Hall’s biggest weakness might be that, like an amazing Philadelphia neighborhood – diverse, supportive, and prosperous - it’s so good that some people forget to get outside of our bubbles. 

In fact, that’s our top priority at Indy Hall for this year and moving forward. We’re even restructuring our memberships to support it. 

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Philly Tech Week, getting out of your bubble, and meeting people in the tech communities beyond your tech community.

Who Tech Week Is For

I force myself to remember that Philly Tech Week isn’t designed for me, or people like me. 

I – and a lot of the people who will read this post – are active and involved in our tech communities 52 weeks a year…including Philly Tech Week. 

But there are many, many more people for whom Philly Tech Week is the first or the only time they’re exposed to our communities. Many of them don’t realize the countless amazing events our community organizes across Philadelphia the other 51 weeks of the year. 

How do we change that? I believe that a part of the answer is to take our Tech Week events a little less seriously, and to go out of our way to create space for people to get to know each other beyond their common interests in tech. 

When people build real relationships, they are many, many more times likely to want to come back much sooner than 51 weeks later. 

So Below, I’ve embedded an agenda that includes 17 events that, as far as I can tell, are purely social. No demos, no pitches, and no lectures. 

I probably won’t go to all of them, but that’s not the goal. 

My suggestion, instead, is to make your goal to end Philly Tech Week having met just one person you would have never met inside your bubble, and make a meaningful conversation with them. 

Really. Just one. Anybody can do just one

But first, there are some issues with my list:

  • Too many of the social events are drinking/bar events. While I’m the first to admit that I enjoy spending time in a bar, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that a lot of people don’t enjoy this kind of socialization. We also have a massive under-21 population among the tech communities, and very few means of socializing with them 

    I think we’d benefit from shifting to dinners instead…or lunches, or breakfasts, or afternoon snacks. I’d love to see more community meals (not meetups/talks during a mealtime, but actual group meals). Urban Geek Drinks at Frankford Hall does an incredible job every month of creating an event that is diversely attended and a ton of fun and puts the focus on making connections with people you probably wouldn’t otherwise meet. I’d encourage everyone to learn from what they do.

  • “Alex, you’re wrong to say that people can’t socialize at an event just because it’s not a party. My Hackathon/Lecture/Panel/Expo is totally social.”

    I’m not saying that at all. People can socialize anywhere.

    My challenge to event organizers is to design community events, not just run events “for” the community. This article has a plethora of tips for designing community events that people love and remember. Use it, live it, love it, and tell me what you’ve changed and the impact it made. 

Above all, Enjoy Philly Tech Week however you want to, my friends. 

If you see me at one of these silly social events, please say hi…especially if we haven’t met in person before. 

Oh, and if I missed an event, let me know in the comments so I can add it to the calendar!

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  • Sarah Cordivano

    Check out our GeoPhilly Film Night. It features wacky geography related films from 1940s-1960s. I promise it will be fun! http://2014.phillytechweek.com/events/GeoPhilly_Film_Night

  • http://www.dangerouslyawesome.com alexknowshtml

    Cool, added! It’ll show up soon whenever Google refreshes :)

  • Amelia Longo

    Also check out GPS Bodies – it’s a dance performance, but it’s wandery, social, and interactive – based on dating apps. http://2014.phillytechweek.com/events/gps_bodies

  • http://www.dangerouslyawesome.com alexknowshtml

    Sounds weird and awesome. Added!

    – /ah indyhall.org betterwork.co